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One of John’s oldest clients, a world leader in the optical products field, had a confidential search for a Head of Sales open for over a year. It had started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the global situation worsened, the client’s need to fill this role became more urgent. The successful candidate would ideally be a seasoned veteran of the position who would bring structure and leadership to a five-year growth plan.

Negotiation, Search, Challenges

The role was on a semi-exclusive basis with three agencies to ensure both confidentiality and sufficient breadth of search to attract suitable talent. Having already placed many candidates with them, including their Head of Marketing, John had an excellent history with the client that ensured Zensho Agency was asked to help. His strong direct relationship with the country manager helped him to acquire a deeper understanding of the kind of individual that would satisfy the role’s requirements.

The client wanted someone in the role by the end of 2019, and the original search was expected to take 3-6 months. John began with a candidate pool based largely on referrals and direct hunting at the client’s competitors. He already had a broad network in this space, and so was able to quickly generate a shortlist of candidates he could either introduce directly or who could refer him to more suitable options. His experience made vetting candidates for the local interviews easy, while the APAC and Global interviewers’ priorities were somewhat harder to narrow down.

As is common with searches of this type, John’s greatest challenge was aligning the client’s expectations and priorities for this role. He identified one excellent prospect early in the search and the candidate reached final stage. But then the client put him on hold, feeling that, despite him having the right qualities and experience, he was a little young and might face issues within the team dynamic. He ultimately received another offer elsewhere and accepted it. Thereafter, the client identified a number of other finalists, stalling the process each time. This led to other viable candidates to fall out of the running or lose interest.


“Timing was on my side,” says our modest man from Malta. “Through a combination of persistence and luck, I introduced my final candidate as the search was just being restarted for another cycle. The candidate was in a position to be patient and, thanks to my knowledge of the client and search history, I was able to manage his expectations.” John coordinated with the client to streamline the Japan interviews and allow more time for APAC and Global to consider the candidate.The COVID situation meant that the process dragged on longer than usual, as internal communications slowed to a crawl. All interviews had to be conducted online until a final offer meeting, and John ensured that expectations were aligned on both sides. Ironically, this brought about the fastest signing of an offer letter he has ever seen.

The candidate has only recently taken over the sales operations for the client, but even with the workflow difficulties imposed by COVID, he is having a positive impact on company sales performance. The main objective for his role – the restructuring of the sales organization – is underway, and he is already respected as a crucial part of the client’s Japan leadership team.

Although the client was disappointed that the search had taken so long, they feel confident that they made the correct choice and that the candidate was worth waiting for through an arduous process. John agrees. And having now placed both the Head of Sales and Head of Marketing within this organization, he can offer future candidates exceptional insight whilst also better serving the client’s needs.

Recruitment license number (Japan): 13 – ユ – 302223